Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

When Henrik Ibsen’s play Ghosts debuted in 1882 audiences were shocked.

From left: Kira Samu (Regine),Phillip Hayden (Manders) and Gabriel Cali (Oswald Alving) star in Ghosts playing at Theatre Works.*

The play spotlighted issues of society that were considered to be taboo and as a result the play was heavily criticised.

A new contemporary production of the play at Theatre Works is an interesting study of how society’s attitudes to highlighting such taboo subjects have changed.

Unlike Ibsen’s original production which was set in Norway, this Ghosts is set in the parched Australian landscape of the 1880s.  Adapted by Jodi Gallagher and directed by Steven Mitchell Wright the basis of the story remains unchanged.

Laura Hill (Helene Alving).*

Ghosts tells the story of five people – wealthy widow Helene Alving (Laura Hill),  her son, Oswald Alving (Gabriel Cali), a painter, Manders, the local pastor (Phillip Hayden), Jakob Engstrand (Oliver Cowan) a carpenter and Regine (Kira Samu), who is Mrs Alving’s maid and also supposedly Engstrand’s daughter.

All have been impacted by ghosts of the past. Gradually over the play’s 90 minutes those ghosts or more specifically some horrific family secrets are exposed. These secrets include infidelity, rape and sexually transmitted disease.  And then there are the secrets of the present – including the burning of an orphanage and possibly incest and assisted suicide.

The action of the play takes place in the wake of Oswald’s homecoming. He was sent away by his mother at a young age and his father, Captain Alving, died while he was away.  Over the 10 years since the Captain’s death, Alving and Manders, in conformity with the moral codes of the time, have contrived to cover up the fact that he was a monster.

Kira Samu (Regine) and Gabriel Cali (Oswald Alving).*

Oswald’s homecoming bring his father’s monstrous behaviour to the fore highlighting the tragic consequences of his actions for Oswald’s physical health and his future with Regine.

While Ghosts is not an easy play to watch, it delivers a timeless, devastating illustration of the traumatic impact of shocking behaviour and hypocrisy.

Ghosts is playing at Theatre Works until Saturday June 15.  Visit the Theatre Works website for more information and tickets.

Jenny Burns attended the opening night of Ghosts as a guest of the production company.

*Photo credit: Daniel Rabin.



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